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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 7:25 EDT

Musk Ox

The Musk Ox (Ovibos moschatus) is an arctic mammal of the Bovidae family, noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor of the male. It belongs to the Caprinae subfamily and is more closely related to goats than to oxen. Both sexes have long curved horns. Musk oxen are usually around 2 m long and 1 m high at the shoulder. The coat includes long guard hairs that reach almost to the ground.

During the summer, Musk oxen live in wet areas, including river valleys. They move to higher elevations in the winter, to avoid deep snow. They graze on grasses, reeds, sedges, and other ground plants, digging through snow in the winter to reach their food.

Musk oxen are social and live in herds, usually of around 10″“20 animals but sometimes over 100. Winter herds consist of adults of both sexes as well as young animals. During the breeding season, males compete for dominance, and one dominant bull drives other adult males out of the group.

Females are sexually mature at two years of age, and males reach sexual maturity after five years. The gestation period is eight or nine months and almost all pregnancies are of a single calf; the young nurse for a year, but may start to eat grasses as soon as a week after birth. The peak of the mating season is mid-August.

Musk oxen are native to the Arctic areas of Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. The Alaskan population was wiped out in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, but Musk oxen have since been reintroduced to Alaska. The species has also been reintroduced to northern Europe, including Norway (a population in the mountains of Sweden and Norway), and Russia. Musk oxen were close to extinction at one point, but have recovered after being protected from hunting. As of 1999 the world population is estimated at between 65,000 and 85,000, and increasing, especially in the areas where the animal was introduced in the 20th century.

The Musk ox has long brown, grey and yellowish fur. An adult weights more than 200 kg and can reach more than 400 kg. Their height is about 1.4 m, and their length approximately 2.5 m. Musk oxen can achieve an age of 25. They are social animals that live in groups, being famous for making a defense ring when they feel threatened.

Musk Ox